There is a long history of conflict and complexity regarding the harvest and management of oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. There is also a long standing concern over the precipitous decline in oyster populations over the last many decades.
Oysters are a “keystone” species, which act as the foundation of Chesapeake Bay habitat systems. As a filter feeder, they also work to remove nutrients while feeding on algae, and help clean and clear the water.
Oysters are of the utmost importance to providing clean water, healthy fisheries, sustainable seafood, and ecological and economic health for Maryland.
As recreational anglers who rely on healthy habitat and clean water, CCA Maryland has a long standing interest in oysters, both in the management of our wild fishery, growth of aquaculture, and restoration efforts.
On April 1, 2015, CCA Maryland leaders sent the letter this letter to Maryland DNR to state our position on numerous topics related to oyster management.
Many actions have occurred since our leaders wrote that 2015 letter, but the foundational principles still remain.
- The use of science-based principles to help guide the future management of the oyster fishery and resource
- Working towards sustainable levels of harvest based on both the needs of the resource and recognizing the importance of a balance of restoration, a wild fishery, and aquaculture.
- Expanding shell recycling networks, and recognizing that shell lost from harvest must be controlled better than it has over the history of our wild fishery.
- Developing innovative ways to improve oyster populations, and finding scientifically sound ways to invest in economic solutions to ecological issues
Oysters are the very foundation of the ecosystems of the Chesapeake Bay and will continue to be a major focus of CCA Maryland’s advocacy work.
In the last many years we have:
- Opposed the destructive practice of dredging buried oyster shell from Man O War Shoal, the last great oyster bar in the upper Chesapeake Bay.
- Supported the passage of the Sustainable Oyster Fishery and Management Act of 2016 (SB 937), which required the first ever stock assessment of Chesapeake Bay oysters to be completed. 2016 SB 937 Written Testimony
- Supported the passage of HB 924, Prohibiting the Department of Natural Resources from reducing or altering the boundaries of specified oyster sanctuaries until the Department develops a fisheries management plan for the scientific management of the oyster stock following completion of a specified study and reports required by SB 937 . 2017 HB924 Written Testimony
- Represented Maryland’s angling community in Oyster Futures, a multi year consensus building workshop to develop recommendations for oyster policies and management that meet the needs of industry, citizen, and government stakeholders in the Choptank and Little Choptank Rivers.
- Continually supported the growth of the oyster aquaculture industry as a sustainable choice for developing small businesses and providing economic benefits to “working waterfront” communities impacted by declines in commercial fisheries throughout the Chesapeake Bay region.
- Shared the importance of the ecosystem services provided by oysters to all stakeholders in the Chesapeake Bay region, and the importance of the oysters role in building habitat as a natural filter for our degraded waterways.
- Represented CCA Maryland and recreational anglers interests through a seat on the Oyster Advisory Commission (OAC)